A UK study has shown for the first time that drug treatment cuts crime.
The research paper revealed that offences typically committed by addicts, such as theft, fell by almost half when they were in drug treatment programmes, according to research commissioned by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse.
Until now, research into the impact of treatment on the criminal activity of drug users has focused on how users report changes in their own behaviour, said the NTA.
Researchers from Manchester University’s National Drug Evidence Centre matched anonymised data from the Police National Computer to information in the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System to prove the link.
They studied about 1,500 opiate and crack cocaine users who had recently offended but were not jailed and had started community drug treatment instead. This meant the sample were technically able to commit further offences.
However, the total number of crimes committed almost halved following the start of their treatment: from 4,381 to 2,348, with theft offences falling from 1,234 to 635.
Half of the individuals committed no follow-up crime, and those who did committed offences at the same rate as before treatment, the study found.
NTA chief executive Paul Hayes said: “While this research confirms the value of using substitute prescribing as a first-line treatment to stabilise drug users, it also shows that crime is cut rather than being eradicated altogether. This reinforces the need for drug workers to go further and do more to actively get users off drugs and re-integrated into society.”